I admit, this isn’t the healthiest recipe out there, and that’s okay. It’s one of my family’s favorite holiday snacks, this and homemade “Chex mix with a twist”. I have a policy – if I’m going to have a treat it is going to be a delicious, decadent, full fat, full calorie, make-it-worth it treat. I don’t do that fat-free, vegan treats, I’d rather eat fresh veggies! I didn’t always have an opinion on that because, frankly, I hadn’t really thought deeply about it until my 40th birthday almost 7 years ago.
The woman who offered to make the cake for my party (bless her heart) thought that since I was health-concious and ate “natural” foods that I would want my cake to possess those same qualities. Of course, she didn’t ask me, she just adjusted her Grandmother’s delicious chocolate cake recipe to a healthier alternative – whole wheat flour instead of white baking flour, coconut oil instead of butter, etc. I think you get the picture, I don’t think I need to go further than whole wheat flour in place of white baking flour.
The result of this experiment was an extremely dense, dry-as-unbuttered-toast cake. She used frosting so sparingly that even the little moisture it might have afforded was negligible. Sadly, it was completely inedible. I realized at that point I hadn’t clarified that I wasn’t looking for a healthy cake alternative, I was looking for a completely delicious, I’m-not-going-to-ask-what’s-in-this-cake cake! It was from that experience my policy was born. (please excuse my excessive use of hyphens in this post, but it was necessary!)
So, on that note, the recipe that follows is what, in my opinion, the BEST full-fat-high-sugar caramel popcorn. It is a compilation of several recipes I found online and in my cookbooks. I RARELY add anything like nuts or chocolate chips even though I added that as an option, I think the popcorn is delicious without it. I have done it on occasion and it seems the nuts are the last things left and the chocolate makes it a little too sweet for our taste, so why bother? If you have a nut-loving sweet-tooth family, by all means add them.
- 10-12 cups popped and salted popcorn (I air popped today but normally I pop our popcorn in a large pot on the stove in coconut oil and himalayan salt. I think I like the results using that method better. Just use your preferred method of popping)
- 1 Tbsp butter
- 1/2 cup honey
- 1/2 cup sugar (brown, white, turbinado all work fine)
- 1/4-1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2/3 cup crunchy peanut butter (I use crunchy because I like the addition of the peanut pieces but if all you have is smooth use that and this is NOT natural peanut butter, it contains sugar and salt. If you use natural add more salt)
- 2/3 cup nuts, chocolate chips, coconut, etc (OPTIONAL)
- Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
- Pop 10-12 cups of popcorn and put it into a large bowl.
- Toss in the optional ingredients if you are using them and set aside.
- In a medium sauce pan, warm the honey, butter and sugar together over medium heat, stirring occasionally.
- Bring to a boil. Continue simmering and stirring for 3 minutes
- Remove from heat
- Add 1/4 tsp salt (if you did not salt the popcorn I recommend adding 1/4 tsp more salt at this point since it will be a little bland without it) and peanut butter.
- Stir until smooth – do this quickly because it starts to cool and makes mixing it into the popcorn harder. You may have to warm it up over the stove a little if the peanut butter was really cold, but don’t let it boil again or the resulting popcorn will be very hard
- Pour the sauce over the popcorn
- Toss to coat everything thoroughly
- Spread the popcorn onto prepared baking sheet and allow to cool for about 10 minutes before serving. If you want you can form them into small ball-like clusters.
If you are feeling really creative drizzle melted white and dark chocolate over the popcorn while it is cooling to create “Zebra” popcorn and package it as Christmas gifts for neighbors. The addition does make it sweeter but very pretty and if packaged in conical plastic bags will make a beautiful presentation.
Store at room temperature in an air-tight container for up to 10 days (if it lasts that long).